By Indonesia correspondent Samantha Hawley
Nine Australians who stripped at the Formula One in Malaysia at the weekend are free to leave the country after apologising.
The men pleaded guilty to a public nuisance charge, which carries a fine but no jail time. No conviction was recorded.
The group includes Thomas Whitworth, 28, Branden Stobbs, 29, Edward Leaney, 25, Nicolas Kelly, 27, Thomas Laslett, 28, James Paver, 27, Adam Pasfield, 25, Timothy Yates, 29 — the son of a senior diplomat — and Jack Walker, 26 — a staffer for Defence Industry Minister Christoper Pyne.
A letter was read in court apologising for their actions and expressing regret.
“We had no idea that our conduct would be deemed to be inappropriate, crass, or even downright offensive to the citizens of this country,” the letter read.
“The incident … was done in a moment of folly, and for that we are truly sorry that we have hurt the feelings of Malaysians in general.
“We too have similar fondness and respect to our own Australian national flag, but due to our cultural differences our display of respect and reverence of our national flag is perhaps quite different.”
Their defence relied heavily on the cultural differences and the good character of the accused.
Whitworth fainted during the proceeding.
The men were then given water and their handcuffs removed.
‘Budgie smuggling’ case gained international attention
The men stripped down to Malaysian-flag-printed swimwear — or “budgie smugglers” — after Australian Daniel Ricciardo won the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon.
Some of them were also filmed drinking beer from their shoes, an act known as a “shoey”.
The nine spent four nights in two cells at the Sepang police station, near the Formula One race track where they were arrested on Sunday.
The prosecution had considered more serious charges relating to insulting the national emblem, but they were not pursued.
The men were also investigated for intentional insult — a charge that carries a minimum fine and a maximum two years in jail.
Evidence before the court included the nine pairs of swimming trunks bearing the Malaysian flag.
The group arrived at the Sepang court just after 9:00am local time (12:00pm AEDT), and were taken to a court cell amid a large media pack.
John Walker, father of Jack Walker, travelled to Malaysia to support his son and said he was relieved at the decision.
“All of the families in Australia, around the world and here today — we are just relieved the boys are going home,” he said outside court.
“They’re good boys … it happened.
“They recognise what they did is unacceptable but they have been cleared and are free to travel and go home and resume their lives.”
The high-profile lawyer for the nine, Shafee Abdullah, said he was happy with the outcome despite arguing charges should not be laid at all.
“They are clean in terms of their record, they can come into this country anytime they want because there are no restrictions,” he said.
Asked if Malaysians were offended by the actions of the Australians, Mr Abdullah said: “Looking at the press it seems so, I can also tell you there are a lot of Malaysians who are pretty liberal and they thought that this was probably a big joke”.
It was widely thought the men would be deported rather than jailed, as the Malaysian Government, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been criticised for introducing laws thought to be draconian and designed to crack down on free speech.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
© 2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.